Rosary Crusade 2006


14th October 2006


For the 23rd time, Catholics took to the streets of London to proclaim their devotion to the Mother of God during the Rosary Crusade of Reparation.  Nearly two thousand faithful thronged the route from Westminster Cathedral to Brompton Oratory as the four foot high statue of Our Lady of Fatima, blessed by Pope Pius XII, was carried in a manner fit for a queen.  Traffic was brought to a halt in Victoria Street, Sloane Street and along the Brompton Road by the Metropolitan Police Service to make way for the Queen of Heaven and her army of followers.  Hearkening back to bygone days when mighty Catholic processions brought towns and villages to a halt, the Rosary Crusade proclaimed the Faith in the heart of London. 

As Father Andrew Southwell intoned the Credo to begin the Crusade, police motorbikes roared into action to lead us into the crowded streets.  The crucifer, with Crucifix, flanked by two acolytes with torches, led the procession proper.  They were followed by a dozen servers in cassock and cotta, and Brothers of the Little Oratory of St Philip Neri in the red and black robes of the Confraternity of the Precious Blood (quite appropriate as the Cathedral is, of course, dedicated to the Precious Blood).  Then followed a good contingent of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (usually known as the Knights of Malta) and a number of priests, including Fr Tim Finigan of the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen who was invited to preach during the Crusade.  Finally,  the blue bier of Our Lady filled with mauve bridal roses, and pink and white carnations took the place of honour, held aloft by the Catholic Police Guild, (ably managed by Tony O’Brien), and flanked by four flower girls in white communion dresses.  Another dozen flower girls followed with a few young boys before the massed ranks of the faithful, held back by a blue cord and several Crusade Marshals, stretched into the distance.  With such a huge crowd, it was impossible to pray all together but several megaphones manned by Anthony de la Rue, Brother Sean (a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal), and Mrs Yvonne Windsor led the rosary, prayers and hymns.  Soon Victoria Street was filled with the sound of prayer and hymns echoed from the surrounding buildings.  Heading towards Sloane Square, the procession skirted Eaton Square and then turned north along Belgrave Place into Belgrave Square, west down Pont Street and north again up Sloane Street where Saturday afternoon shopping was in full swing.  Pirouetting Knightsbridge underground station, the procession headed westwards once again down Brompton Road, past Harrods (coincidentally drowning out the ubiquitous animal rights protesters) and the smart Knightsbridge shops, before arriving at the magnificent Victorian Italianate church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Brompton Oratory).  The crowd streamed through the three large doors past the neo-classical columns to fill to bursting one of the largest churches in England and Wales.  As the last of the procession entered the church, the organ opened up with “Hail Queen of Heaven” as the formal procession of servers and priests followed by Our Lady and her entourage entered the vast church.  Two thousand throats erupted in praise of Our Blessed Mother as she made her way into the beautiful sanctuary. 

Fr Ronald Creighton-Jobe, Spiritual Director of the Crusade, welcomed the huge congregation before leading them in prayer and song.  There was a reading from the Book of the Apocalypse (“Woman clothed with the sun”) before Fr Finigan tied everything nicely together with his sermon.  There was enrolment in the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a few announcements and thanks to the many people who labour to make the Crusade a reality, and then it was time for Our Lady to say goodbye as she processed down the nave to the side altar of St Mary Magdalene.  Like the vast crowds in Fatima, the congregation waved their hymn books in a fond farewell, singing the Fatima hymn.  But as Our Lady disappeared, Our Lord appeared as the bell rang for Solemn Benediction, in Latin.  Finally, as the priests and servers made their way to the sacristy, the Crusade ended with the rousing Faber hymn, so appropriate in Faber’s church, “Faith of Our Fathers.” 

A lovely day; a magnificent day; a day to thrill the hearts of all true believers.  How wonderful that Fr Hugh Thwaites, SJ had inspired this devotion so many years ago, but sad that for the first time ever, Fr Thwaites, due to age and infirmity, was not able to join us.  However, he would have loved it.

Details of next year’s Rosary Crusade, which will take place on the 90th Anniversary of the “Miracle of the Sun,” 13 October 2007, can be obtained from the Honourable Secretary, The Rosary Crusade of Reparation, 14 Beryl Road, London W6 8JT.